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Bleeding During Pregnancy: What's Normal and What's Not?

Those nine months of pregnancy are often filled with joy and hope, and usually a little bit of fear and anxiety. These feelings are normal. We all want those nine months to go perfectly, but often they don’t go exactly as planned. Many women experience pregnancy symptoms that make them feel uncomfortable and sometimes nervous. Is this normal? Is something wrong?

Bleeding during pregnancy is one of these concerns. In some cases, spotting or light bleeding is normal. In other cases, it can be a sign that something is going wrong with your pregnancy. Here’s some information from the Center for Women’s Health about when bleeding is normal and when it’s not to help you understand what’s going on with your baby and your body during pregnancy.

Bleeding during the first trimester

First off, bleeding during your first trimester is common. About 15% to 25% of women experience bleeding early in their pregnancy. In most cases, there is no cause for concern. Light bleeding or spotting can occur after the fertilized egg implants itself in the lining of the uterus. This is called implantation bleeding.

Another benign reason for bleeding during your first trimester is that more blood vessels are developing near your cervix, so you may experience light bleeding after sexual intercourse or a pelvic exam.

Unfortunately, early bleeding could also be a sign of an impending miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy is when the fertilized egg implants in one of the fallopian tubes instead of the uterus. As the embryo grows, it could rupture the fallopian tube and lead to bleeding.

About 10% of all pregnancies end in a miscarriage. Bleeding is an early sign of a miscarriage. Because it’s not possible to determine the cause of bleeding, you should always consult your doctor if you notice spotting or bleeding.

Bleeding during the second or third trimester

Light bleeding later in the pregnancy can be a result of an inflamed cervix. Heavier bleeding is more likely to be a cause of concern. It can be a signal that you’re going into preterm labor, which means you go into labor before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

Heavy bleeding may also be a sign that there is a problem with the placenta. But if caught early, we can address these problems so can you go on to deliver a healthy baby.

Placenta previa is when the baby’s placenta partially or totally covers the mother’s cervix. Bleeding but no pain marks this condition. Placenta abruption, when the placenta detaches from the uterine wall before or during pregnancy, is a rare condition affecting only 1% of pregnant women.

Lastly, if bleeding near the end of your pregnancy is mixed with mucus, can be a sign that your water has broken and you’re going into labor. In all cases of bleeding, you should speak with your doctor for treatment or to rule out serious conditions.

For more information about what’s normal and what’s not during your pregnancy, call the Center for Women’s Health in Wichita, Kansas, or make an appointment online.

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